Sunday, January 10, 2021

Review: Yellow Wife by Sadeqa Johnson

“Wholly engrossing, exquisitely researched, and so timely. Sadeqa Johnson brings a fresh telling to a story we think we already know, making it beautifully relatable and human. Riveting and suspenseful, I highly recommend this novel.” —Kathleen Grissom New York Times Bestselling author of The Kitchen House

This harrowing story follows an enslaved woman forced to barter love and freedom while living in the most infamous slave jail in Virginia.

Born on a plantation in Charles City Virginia, Pheby Delores Brown has lived a privileged life. Shielded by her mother’s position as the plantation’s medicine woman, and cherished by the Master’s sister, she is set apart from the others on the plantation, belonging to neither world.

Freedom on her eighteenth birthday has been promised to her, but instead of the idyllic life she imagined with her true love, Essex Henry, Pheby is forced to leave the only home she has ever known and unexpectedly finds herself thrust into the bowels of slavery at the infamous “Devil’s Half-Acre,” a jail where the enslaved are broken, tortured, and sold every day in Richmond, Virginia. There Pheby is exposed not just to her Jailor’s cruelty but also to his contradictions. To survive Pheby will have to outwit him but soon faces the ultimate sacrifice.

Paperback, 277 pages
Expected publication: January 12th 2021
 by Simon & Schuster
4/5 stars

New to me author Sadeqa Johnson packs a lot of punch in these 277 pages of Yellow Wife.  This is my first time in what feels like ages to be reading US historical fiction about slavery and what those of color endured.

Just shy of her 18 years, Pheby has been promised her freedom papers but then everything changes and not in a good way.  Pheby told her story beginning with promise, love and hope that changed to despair and heartache.  Needless to say it was a emotional read and honesty given the time period how could it not be.  It was a horrible time in history.

The last few pages of this book contained author notes (a must for HF imho) where the author talked of her inspiration and research.  While the characters were fictional they do revolve around a real jail set on 1/2 an acre where the circumstances were drawn from.  Sometimes hard to read the author didn't always hold back it to what took place. The characters were authentic and it wasn't hard to feel for them.

I liked the ending but I did crave for more.  I would have loved for the story to have continued for a little bit longer.  All in all a great read by an author that I will be on the lookout for her backlist.

My thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada for a print ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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